Message from the founder
** A letter from the founder of Flossmoor Montessori School
Joyce F. Bathalter
Joseph S. Bathalter, Jr.
In the spring of 1963 we began an adventure that was to have a lasting effect on our family and the community that would surround us. I wanted my children to develop a self-disciplined approach to reaching their fullest potential. And, I did not know how to guide them. Admittedly, Joe did not have a clue.
Always being the consummate student, my research began before the birth of our first child, Lisa in 1962. It was not Dr. Spock that enthralled me, it was Dr. MARIA MONTESSORI! I was hooked when reading the first chapter of The Secret of Childhood!
The closest Montessori School was 20 miles away. I wanted to enroll Lisa immediately. That did not work because of a long waiting list and by now I had delivered our second child, Tresa.
I was becoming very anxious because I felt my children were missing out on the most important developmental years of their lives. With that being said, Joe, then encouraged me to do it myself! That was all I needed!
A nursery school that Lisa attended was going out of business. I rushed to buy their furniture. I did not need their toys and make believe stuff. I traveled everywhere there was a Montessori School to see what they were doing. I enrolled in the St Nicholas Montessori London correspondent course to have a certification to teach.
We spent the summer of ’64 painting, gathering, making, praying for equipment for a Montessori school. The neighborhood shared the excitement. They had no idea why we were so excited. When we would say, “Montessori” we would get blank stares. However, as long as children were involved they were more than pleased to help us.
September of 1964 I opened, my ‘House of Children’ in our basement with twelve youngsters. Come January I had a waiting list of 18 children! For the following September I had a much longer list.
The local newspaper printed an article for me asking for other parents to become involved. I did receive a nice response. After several meetings it was apparent their goals and mine were not the same. I insisted on a not-for-profit organization. The group did not like that idea. I insisted on Association Montessori Internationale for certification. They did not. They did not want foreign teachers even though that was our only option for qualified Montessorians. They did not want to spend upfront money on equipment. And, asking for funds to fly the teachers to the US was totally not supported. Needless to say, my dream was shattering.
Eventually, Joe and I decided to go it alone. We remortgaged our home and silently, Joe’s Mother, Audrey, advanced me a loan. We were finally incorporated March 25, 1966! A day of celebration for us.
At the time, Joe was a chattel mortgage banker. I was a stay at home Mom of two with a small school in my lower level. We stayed persistent in our effort to have a real Montessori House of Children. It was and never has been a “school” in my mind.
I found rental space for us in Chicago Heights at the First Christian Church on the second floor. I found two beautiful frightened teachers to come to us from Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
Joe and I picked up Myrna and Saria from O’Hare airport and welcomed them into our home until we could find their own living accommodations. A Mother of one of our children, Sandy Hall, offered an apartment close to the school. And, secured transportation for them. Joe would go to the Port of Chicago to pick up our Montessori equipment in the middle of the night when the ship arrived from Holland with the didactic equipment.
We were on our way to having a real ‘prepared environment’ for the Children. We reached our class maximum of 35 and started a second class. And then the waiting list began. And, again I had big decisions to make. I now had my third child, Tedd Marie. I no longer wanted to drive so far every day to get my three children to and from the prepared environment.
Knowing my strong diligence for Montessori, Joe agreed I could look for a permanent home for the children. There were contingencies at the church, and the Directresses were becoming weary. Which was contributing to my weariness. We looked at so many places to re-locate it was exhausting. And, now the Church Elders were becoming anxious with us. They wanted to start their own Christian ‘pre-school’ when they saw how it could be done.
I finally thought ‘outside the box’ and found the perfect place. It was an empty lot beneath the water tower in Flossmoor! Once I convinced Joe, we could handle a new construction he relented and agreed with me. We now had our fourth child, Joseph, III.
Mind you, the school did not have money to purchase the land nor handle construction of a new building. My frugal self, had to step up. Again, we had to invest our own money. Soon this became a great contention between Joe and I, since I would not allow us to take a salary nor any gratuities from the ‘school’.
Struggling with city Fathers of Flossmoor, we finally got code variances to build under the water tower!
By now the visas of our Directresses were expiring. I needed to find American trained persons to lead the Children. Margot Waltuch, a certified consultant for AMI Europe and Margaret Stephenson, from the Washington Montessori Institute were my guiding lights through all the stages of our growth.
The Montessori School in Dublin was training two American Directresses! Although they would not make permanent commitments they came to continue our classes for several years. The Directresses from Sri Lanka came back. And, ‘the school’ kept rolling along.
I finally found a struggling, former grade school teacher at the Atlanta Montessori Institute to come with us. Lynda was the head Directress through many of our growing pains. She continued in that capacity until Larry Lewis became the new Director. She stayed with him for many years. Today the “House of Children” is known as Flossmoor Montessori School.
I celebrated on March 25, 2016, 50 years of my dream come true! A glass of wine and prayers for the continued success for the House of Children, now Flossmoor Montessori School.!
Be Blessed Bansari Modi. Your mission is a beautiful one.
Joyce F. Bathalter, Founder